Young people have the opportunity to play a defining role in the NSPCC’s mission to prevent child abuse, with the launch of a new group.

The Young People’s Board for Change has been launched to give young people the chance to shape and influence the work of the UK’s leading child protection charity – and is a vital part of the NSPCC’s commitment to ensuring they are right at the heart of its decision making.

The charity has recruited 15 young people aged between 13 and 16 from across the UK, including Rachel from Angus, to represent the views of children and young people and help to shape the work of the NSPCC across the UK.

Members are from across the UK and have a range of backgrounds, with many having active roles in their local communities and doing a range of work to help others.

They will use the platform to raise awareness of what matters most to young people, take action and make change happen – while also having a key role advising staff and trustees.

The pandemic has had a huge impact on young people, with the NSPCC’s Childline service carrying out more than 61,000 counselling sessions on mental health since the start of the first lockdown in March last year.

But as we look to the future, the NSPCC believes it is vital that their voices are represented. The charity is calling for governments across the UK to put young people at the centre of its recovery plans – and as part of this, their views and experiences of the last year must be listened to.

Board members will take part in new experiences and opportunities, meet other young people, as well as develop confidence and learn life-long new skills, such as campaigning and public speaking.

Over a two-year period, members will be involved in sharing what’s important to them, take part in residentials, meetings and workshops, and campaign to share their views and opinions.

Yesterday they met virtually for the first time – and members say they are excited about getting started in their new roles.

They are also keen to talk about the impact of the last year and what needs to be done to support young people in the coming months.

Board member Rachel, aged 14, said: “I know the last year been beyond difficult for so many people, but lockdown helped me realise what is important to me. I got so many opportunities to do amazing things in 2020 – I presented to the NSPCC virtual Annual Council Meeting, I helped to launch the ‘think b4 you type’ initiative and was asked to give interviews on radio and TV!

“Working with the Angus Youth Advisory Group on the ‘think b4 you type’ initiative, which resulted in our council changing the anti-bullying policy, reinforced my belief that we, as young people can make a difference and change things. We have a lot of really important opinions and solutions – we just need help and support to be heard and, and to a certain extent, be taken seriously.

“I’d love to take the things I’ve learned from this advisory group to a bigger platform and make a difference for young people outside my local area and think that this board is a perfect opportunity to be able to do that.

“When the Covid crisis has passed, I’m really looking forward to getting back to circus school. After school, I hope to go to university to study law, specialising in children’s rights. Beyond that – I don’t think there has ever been a Prime Minister who can perform circus skills routines, so maybe it’s time for that to happen!”

Recently, the NSPCC appointed Ife Grillo, 22, and Sheanna Patelmaster, 24, as trustees with a specialist focus on working with and supporting the Young People’s Board for Change. The recruitment of the board is the next stage of an important journey to better represent young people’s views and include them in the charity’s work.

Lucy Read, NSPCC Associate Head of Participation, said: “The last year has changed the lives of many young people across the UK but, as we now look to the future, the new members of our Young People’s Board for Change have a great opportunity to make their voices heard.

“We received over 300 applications from young people to join the board and during recruitment, I was impressed by the genuine passion young people had for the NSPCC’s work and a commitment to get involved and make a difference.

“We believe that a generation of young people should not be defined by the pandemic, so it has never been more important to listen to them and embed their views into everything we do. Children are the experts on their own lives, and there is so much that we can learn from their experiences.”